Movies watched – Modern Times
Modern Times (library copy DVD, Monday night) A classic, a masterpiece, a great film – Modern Times (1936) is widely regarded as one of Charlie Chaplin‘s best, and is full of iconic imagery and brilliant slapstick. Also, surprisingly, it has a routine built around the Little Tramp accidentally snorting a whole lot of coke. At 87 minutes, it’s the perfect length for a comedy.
The Green Hornet (illegal download, Tuesday night) – 87 minutes would have been the ideal length for the first superhero movie of 2011. Sure, director Michel Gondry brings a certain amount of visual wizardry to a fairly standard action-comedy film, with Seth Rogen and his sidekick Kato (Jay Chou) providing some funny banter (Rogen co-wrote the script with his writing partner Evan Goldberg). But the last 20 minutes is a complete write-off – I couldn’t wait for the endless car chase and shoot-’em-up finale, with Rogen shouting himself hoarse for the whole length of it, to end.
Two things I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else: in the hilarious bad-guy scenery-chewing showdown between James Franco and Christopher Waltz that sort of kicks of The Green Hornet, a wall-mounted screen in the bad guy’s lair is showing Canadian heavy metal band (and documentary subject) Anvil. I’m thinking this is probably Canadian Rogen’s idea.
Also: when Rogen’s Britt Reid and Cameron Diaz‘s gal Friday first meet, there is a very weird exchange between them that stands out for being completely out of place and vaguely ageist. Basically, Reid asks why Diaz’s character is applying to be his receptionist so late (36 years old) in life. It seems out of sync with the rest of the movie and completely arbitrary (it’s certainly not funny).
Black Swan (illegal download, Wednesday night) – Darren Aronofsky strikes me as one of American movies’ most heavy-handed and uninteresting directors – I couldn’t get past the first 20 minutes of The Wrestler – so I wasn’t expecting much from his ballet epic.
But Black Swan is much better than I expected it to be, and I found that its psychological thriller aspects held my interest through most of its 90-minute-plus running time. Although writing this three days later about the only thing I remember is Mila Kunis goes down on Natalie Portman, and that this may or may not be a dream.
Chaplin (library DVD, Saturday night) – David Attenborough‘s biopic stars a criminally young Robert Downey Jr. and a roster of big names circa the late ’80s/early ’90s, and Dan Aykroyd. For the most part Chaplin does the job, with Downey running away with the movie – big surprise there – although Kevin Kline cuts a very suave figure as Douglas Fairbanks. Bad age makeup and a cloying soundtrack undermine the film, but overall Chaplin works as a capsule summary of its subject’s life.